Cervical Cancer has taken over from breast cancer as the No 1 Cancer killer in women. This is according to a research conducted by the Cervical Cancer Action Global Alliance and Dr Mike Chirenje, a professor at the University of Zimbabwe. It is also a cancer caused by a sexually transmitted virus called human papilloma virus. Cervical Cancer is a slow growing cancer; it has a pre-cancer stage which can be identified through screening. Hence its one of the few cancers that can be fully prevented. BOLA AKINBOADE-BELLO had a chat with Dr Matilda Kerry, ex-beauty queen and founder of the George Kerry Life Foundation; she reveals the risk factors and ways to prevent Cervical Cancer.
CANCER of the cervix can occur at any age. It is found most often in women older than 35 years, but can occur in younger women. Your risk for cancer of the cervix depends on your sexual history, your immune system, your health, and your lifestyle.
You have an increased risk if you:
· Have not been getting routine cervical screening tests
· Have had sex with more than one person or have a male sexual partner who has had sex with more than one person (the more partners you have, the higher the risk)
· First had sex at an early age (younger than 18 years)
· Have a male sexual partner who has had a sexual partner with cervical cancer
· Have Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
THE Pre-cancerous stage and early cancer of the cervix often have no symptoms. By the time symptoms appear, the cancer cells have already spread.
When symptoms do occur, the first signs may be vaginal bleeding in between your normal menstrual periods, spotting, watery foul smelling discharge from the vagina, bleeding may occur after sex.
Most of the time, these signs are caused by other health problems besides cancer. However, if you have any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor.
Signs of advanced cancer can include pain, problems urinating, and swollen legs.
These symptoms do not always mean cancer. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor without delay.
6 WAYS TO PREVENT CERVICAL CNCER
· GET regular cervical screening. Cervical screening can be the greatest defenses for cervical cancer. It detects cervical changes early before they turn into cancer.
· Limit the amount of sexual partners you have. Studies have shown women who have many sexual partners increase their risk for cervical cancer. They also are increasing their risk of developing HPV, a known cause for cervical cancer.
· Quit smoking or avoid second-hand smoke. Smoking cigarettes increases your risk of developing many cancers, including cervical cancer. Smoking combined with an HPV infection can actually accelerate cervical dysplasia. Your best bet is to kick the habit.
· If you are sexually active, use a condom. Having unprotected sex puts you at risk for HIV and other STD’s which can increase your risk factor for developing cervical cancer.
· Follow up on abnormal cervical screening. If you have had an abnormal result, it is important to follow up with regular annual screening. If you have been treated for cervical dysplasia, you still need to follow up with cervical screening. Dysplasia can return and when undetected, can turn into cervical cancer.
· Get the HPV vaccine. If you are under 27, you may be eligible to receive the HPV vaccine, which prevents high risk strains of HPV in women. The HPV vaccine, was approved for girls as young as 9. The vaccine is most effective when given to young women before they become sexually active.